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Thursday, September 18, 2014
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Published: Thursday, 1/9/2014 - Updated: 8 months ago

Winter storms will cost Toledo up to $1 million

Big snows need extra help to clear

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Toledo crews remove snow from the Martin Luther King, Jr., Bridge, which should be helped by a warming pattern in the next few days, according to the National Weather Service. Temperatures may reach into the 40s. Toledo crews remove snow from the Martin Luther King, Jr., Bridge, which should be helped by a warming pattern in the next few days, according to the National Weather Service. Temperatures may reach into the 40s.
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Two winter storms that gave the Toledo area a double helping of snow during the new year’s first week, followed by its deepest freeze in two decades, could leave the city with a $1 million cleanup bill.

That figure doesn’t even consider the cost of patching a new crop of potholes that city and state officials expect to form once a thaw predicted for the weekend sets in.

And the forecast warm-up, accompanied by rain, could mean a return of flooding along northwest Ohio rivers — especially if ice cover breaks up and then jams on river bends or bridges.

After plunging early Wednesday back down to -11, which is 3 degrees above the Jan. 8 record set in 1968, the official temperature at Toledo Express Airport by late morning climbed into the teens for the first time since Sunday morning, topping out at 16.

The National Weather Service said that after a single-digit low at sunrise, Toledo-area temperatures will rebound today to the low 20s, with a chance for snow showers in the afternoon. Little cooling is expected overnight, with a further warm-up expected during the day Friday — and with the snow showers changing to rain by afternoon.

Rain was forecast to continue intermittently into Saturday, perhaps reaching an inch in total before ending.

Dave Welch, the city’s commissioner of streets, bridges, and harbor, estimated Wednesday that the back-to-back snowstorms Jan. 1-2 and Jan. 5-6 will cost Toledo between $750,000 and $1 million when cleanup is complete.

Mayor D. Michael Collins said Toledo charges residents special assessments for snow and ice removal. The amount you pay is based on the amount of street frontage that you have, he said. The assessments must be approved by city council before they are billed to residents the year after costs are incurred.

“We’re not done,” Mr. Welch said. “Between the two storms, from Dec. 30 until now, we had 20 inches of snow, and it came so quick, plus the subzero temperatures compounded things.”

While both storms’ timing was benign for commuters — one occurred mainly on the New Year’s holiday, the other on Sunday — both required expensive overtime for truck drivers and others involved in fighting the snow and ice.

Mr. Welch said the full economic impact wouldn’t be calculated for several days. He estimated the city already had pent $400,000 for street workers’ salary and overtime; $220,000 in labor costs for workers in other city divisions, plus $40,000 for private plow contractors who were hired during the snowstorms.

The private operators stopped supplementing city crews at 7 a.m. Tuesday, Mr. Welch said.

Also on the bill will be the cost of tow-truck operators the city hired to move vehicles off snow-clogged residential streets so plows could get through, a cost that was not passed onto vehicle owners. Several cars were towed Tuesday and Wednesday, but Mr. Welch could not immediately provide an exact number.

The city hasn’t faced back-to-back major snowstorms in several years, Mr. Welch said.

“We haven’t had to tow cars in I don’t know how many years,” he said.

The deep cold left Toledo’s garbage-collection contractor, Republic Services, playing catch-up after many of its trucks broke down. Collection was canceled Wednesday and set back one day for the rest of the week, with Wednesday pickups to be made today, today’s on Friday, and Friday’s on Saturday — as if Wednesday were a holiday.

In Toledo on Wednesday, skies were clear and winds had diminished and city, state, and Lucas County crews all took advantage to catch up with street clearing, while conceding there was still much work to do.

 

Connor Radkov, 9, slides to the bottom on Sylvania Playland gym equipment on Centennial Road. The third grader was enjoying another day off from Stranahan Elementary School. Connor Radkov, 9, slides to the bottom on Sylvania Playland gym equipment on Centennial Road. The third grader was enjoying another day off from Stranahan Elementary School.
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Be careful

“All our roads are open. The drifts have been plowed off,” Lucas County Engineer Keith Earley said. “But the salt is not working real fast or real well yet. There are slick spots, so people should be careful. It will probably be [today] before it starts to work.”

Some local school districts, including Toledo Public, Rossford, Bowling Green, Perrysburg, and Bedford, canceled classes for a fourth day today. The reason most cited was the continuance of icy roadways in outlying rural areas.

Bedford schools closed its doors for that reason. Bedford Township Supervisor Greg Stewart said the Monroe County Road Commission has been getting better with salting the roads, but that this time they have really struggled.

“We have been getting inundated with phone calls from residents asking for help and complaining about the condition of the roads,” he said, adding that when he called them Wednesday asking them to put salt down on Lewis Avenue, he was told they are planning to do it today because they were waiting for temperatures to rise.

Bedford board of trustee members, too, discussed the deplorable condition of the roads locally.

Trustee Rick Steiner noted during a meeting this week that when he came home from work in the Detroit area during the storm, it took him 2½ hours mainly because when he hit the Bedford area he had to slow way down to about 20 mph on the icy, untreated roads.

Monroe County Road Commissioners Randy Pierce and Bruce Stammer, Jr., could not be reached for comment late Wednesday.

Theresa Pollick, a spokesman at the Ohio Department of Transportation’s district office in Bowling Green, said Toledo-area freeways were in good shape Wednesday, but other state highways were still packed with snow that, in some cases, had turned to ice.

She urged drivers to remain alert for changing pavement conditions, especially on freeway ramps and when making turns from state highways onto local roads.

 

Pothole woes

Warming temperatures this weekend will help with that, Ms. Pollick said, but “one thing we know is coming our way is pavement issues.”

ODOT already fought one pothole battle last month, when rain just before Christmas followed an earlier snowstorm and cold snap. State officials will keep an eye out for that problem’s reappearance, the spokesman said, while dealing with snow removal first.

Mr. Welch said he was leery of the warm-up for the same reason.

“We’ve had subzero temperatures for a couple of days, with moisture on the ground before that, and moisture on the ground afterward,” the streets commissioner said. “That’s got me really concerned.”

Some city streets had even developed new potholes last weekend during a near-freezing warm-up before the latest snowstorm intensified and temperatures dropped — potholes that may become more prominent once the snow is gone.

Ice on the Maumee River and its tributaries, meanwhile, could become a flooding factor this weekend if rain and rising temperatures break it up, forecasters said.

The National Weather Service office in North Webster, Ind., issued a hydrologic outlook Wednesday estimating the moisture content of the region’s snow pack at between 1 and 2 inches.

 

Rainfall risk

That plus “widespread moderate to locally heavy rainfall Friday night into early Saturday” could release runoff atop frozen ground, flooding low-lying areas and basements first and possibly causing ice jams on the larger rivers.

“Flooding is not a certainty at this time, but the potential does exist,” the agency said.

Sarah Jamison, a forecaster at the weather service’s Cleveland office, said rain and snow melt by themselves and are unlikely to cause anything more than minor flooding, but ice jams could cause rivers to rise rapidly.

“We are concerned about this thaw that we’ve got coming up. ... The problem is going to be with the ice,” Ms. Jamison said, adding later that officials can’t predict where such jams might occur, but they could cause river water to back up, then rush downstream when the jams burst.

The bitter cold and biting wind that followed Sunday’s snow left much of the Toledo area under travel bans on Monday and Tuesday, leaving schoolchildren stuck at home for an extended Christmas break. Depending on one’s age, the extra days off were either a gift from the heavens or a cruel test, with many parents unprepared for the extended family time.

Many schools remained closed Wednesday because of drifted-over rural roads, but at least the Level 3 warning had been lifted.

At Sylvania Playland, several mothers milled about the open playroom while others sat, watched, and smiled: Their children, finally, were out of the house.

“I am so sick of playing ‘Go Fish,’ ” Cory Miller said while Kyden, 7, and Kamdyn, 5, ran around the room. She brought the children there, she said, because they needed to burn some energy. Kamdyn said she was more than willing to play another “Go Fish” game.

“[By Monday] it started being, ‘Oh my God, you have to go back to school,’ ” Tina Ramm, another parent, said with a laugh.

Her daughter Sianna, 11, a fifth grader at Stranahan Elementary, bakes, so that filled up some of the down time.

Sianna also played some board games with her siblings — her “annoying” siblings, she called them — but said she missed her friends and had been ready to go back to school on Monday.

Possibly showing signs of cabin fever, she sported a fake mustache Wednesday while she played.

Ms. Miller said having children at home meant the occasional interruption of her home office, particularly because her children don’t watch much television. That’s normally a good thing, she noted.

And Casey Lehto said being cooped up for three days got difficult for her normally active family.

Within the first day, she and children Adia, 5, and Cyril, 4, had exhausted their supply of games, puzzles, and movies. Her snowplow-driving husband was out in the elements on 12-hour shifts, leaving her in charge of the children’s entertainment.

“The last week has been a blur,” she said.

Staff writers Ignazio Messina and Nolan Rosenkrans contributed to this report.

Contact David Patch at: dpatch@theblade.com or 419-724-6094.



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